Scooby makes a scene. Webber, Giamatti and Schank (yes, the guy from American Movie)
dir-scr Todd Solondz
with Paul Giamatti, Selma Blair, Mark Webber, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Wisdom, Lupe Ontiveros, Jonathan Osser, Noah Fleiss, Franka Potente, Mike Schank
release US 12.Oct.01; UK 30.Nov.01
01/US 1h27

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) is back with another black comedy that pulls no punches in its examination of American society. The film is broken into two parts, unrelated except for the central theme. In the first, shorter "Fiction", university student Vi (Blair) thinks she's rather politically correct because her boyfriend (Fitzpatrick) has cerebral palsy. But both of them are berated by their writing prof (Wisdom) for their weak storywriting. Then events take a horrible turn, and Vi's fiction draws on the truth. In "Nonfiction," documentary filmmaker Toby (Giamatti) decides to examine teens preparing for university and settles on Scooby (Webber), the aimless eldest son of the Livingston family (dad Goodman, mom Hagerty, dumb jock middle brother Fleiss, manipulative little brother Osser, oppressed maid Ontiveros). But Toby's attempts to honestly portray the family begin to stretch the truth.

The main theme here is exploitation--how people use others to express themselves and to make themselves feel better about their choices in life. Yes, it's all a bit intense, but Solondz fills every scene with dark humour and wicked satire that undercuts the seriousness of the themes and the intensity of the situations. Again, he elicits brave, transparent performances from his entire cast--sometimes scary because they're so honest and out there! Fitzpatrick is the only weak link, because his attempt at CP just isn't believable (surely there's an actor with CP who could have done justice to the role). And while Solondz tries far too hard to break taboos and shock us, he deserves credit for even addressing these issues in such a sharply offhanded way.
strong themes and situations, language, nudity cert 18 26.Nov.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall